ADETERMINED Eagles side went back to the top of the BBL on Saturday night after a hard-fought victory over London Capital, writes JEFF KING.
The win was doubly impressive, coming 24 hours after Fab Flournoy’s men had put paid to the Leicester Riders at the Metro Radio Arena.
With Jeremy Hyatt’s knee injury flaring up, meaning he stayed on Tyneside, it was an under-strength Eagles side that endured a long journey to London on a wintry December day. And, unbelievably for the third BBL game in a row, there was a delay to the tip-off.
This time both teams were kitted out in white uniforms but with league rules clearly in the Eagles’ favour the hosts had to change to a pale blue outfit which reflected their mood as the Eagles started much the better, taking an 11-4 lead. No fewer than six Eagles players were on the scoresheet in this run including a lovely dunk by Charles Smith.
The Eagles continued to spread the scoring and when Smith hit a trey at the end of the first period they led by 23-15. It was a lead the Eagles managed to stretch to 10 by the half at 45-35 thanks to Richard Midgley’s seven points and Olu Babalola’s six in the second quarter. The Eagles came out of the locker room the stronger and a 6-2 start gave them the biggest lead of the contest at 51-37. However, the home side were not done and, led by an explosive 14 points from ex-Team USA Select star Sam Bradley, they narrowed the gap to 64-59 with 10 minutes to go.
Newcastle lost the influential Babalola with an elbow injury for the final stanza and it was Bradley again that got free of the Eagles’ defensive clutches to drain seven more points. When Tayo Ogedegebe made two shots from the free-throw line the Capital had their first lead of the game at 69-67 with 3:47 remaining. But Flournoy was determined his side would not be beaten and his men answered his call and produced a devastating 12-0 run which included an NBA-length three from Midgley to lead by ten with less than a minute to go and then withstood a late push from Capital to close out the win.
“Sometimes you need tough wins on the road like this to show you where you are at,” said Flournoy. “We are all still not on the same page, particularly defensively, but I have to be pleased with a win when you consider Jeremy was out, we lost Olu at a vital stage and one or two others are pretty banged up.”
Certainly the Eagles will be boosted by the victory and with a full week of practise and time to heal their bruises will be looking to extract revenge in next Saturday’s BBL Cup Semi-Final showdown with Scottish Rocks at the K2 Arena, Crawley.
NEWCASTLE EAGLES : Richard Midgley 25, Charles Smith 17, Andrew Bridge 11.
LONDON CAPITAL: Sam Bradley 26, Tayo Ogedegebe 10, Harvey van Stein 9.